The coronavirus pandemic has inflicted detrimental economic repercussions on the UK in the past year—a recent study found it has cost the UK economy £251 billion. The costs incurred by the Government, businesses, and individuals have been immense, and the latest research by Redfield & Wilton Strategies finds that 45% of the British public feels the worst is yet to come with respect to the pandemic’s economic effects in the UK.

When we asked this same question on 11 November 2020, a large majority (70%) of respondents said the worst of the pandemic’s economic effects were yet to come. The latest results therefore indicate an increased sense of optimism since November 2020: 34% of respondents in our latest poll believe the worst is behind us in terms of economic repercussions, compared to just 17% in November. 

However, on 11 March 2021, a plurality (46%) of respondents said the worst is behind us, showing that there can be significant fluctuations in the space of one week given the high level of uncertainty that currently prevails due to the pandemic. Thus, while optimism has increased since November 2020, the British public is by no means universally optimistic, and instead volatility abounds.

In our latest poll, the belief that the worst of the economic repercussions are yet to come in the UK is highest among 55-to-64-year-olds (51%). Meanwhile, a plurality (41%) of 18-to-24-year-olds think the worst economic effects are behind us. Likewise, plurality (43%) of 2019 Conservative voters also believe the worst is behind us, whereas 53% of 2019 Labour voters believe the worst is yet to come.

Despite the significant sense that the pandemic’s economic effects could still worsen, a plurality (45%) of respondents feel optimistic that the UK can recover quickly from the crisis, whereas 29% feel pessimistic. This optimism has increased since the earlier days of the pandemic, when 34% of respondents said they felt optimistic and 40% felt pessimistic that the UK could recover quickly when we posed this question on 26 April 2020. The fast rollout of the coronavirus vaccine in the UK is a likely explanation for the uptick in confidence about the UK economy’s ability to recover.

Although optimism that the UK’s economy can recover quickly from the pandemic is highest among 18-to-24-year-olds (51%) and lowest among 45-to-54-year-olds (39%), it is still the plurality position among all age groups. Similarly, a majority of 2019 Conservative voters and a plurality of Labour voters said they feel optimistic, though the proportion is greater for Conservative voters (62%) than Labour voters (40%).

The British public’s considerable optimism about the UK’s recovery may be related to the fact that a majority (53%) in Great Britain believe the Government is currently taking the right measures to address the pandemic’s economic repercussions. 28% of respondents believe the Government is not taking the right measures, while 19% said they don’t know.

The proportion of respondents who believe the Government is currently taking the right measures to address the pandemic’s economic repercussions has gradually increased from 41% on 11 January 2021, when we first introduced this question.

While approval of the Government’s economic measures is lowest among 18-to-24-year-olds and 25-to-34-year-olds at 49%, these figures still represent a plurality of those age groups’ respondents. 2019 Labour voters are split, with 41% believing the Government is currently taking the right measures to address the pandemic’s economic repercussions and 40% believing the Government is not taking the right measures. 2019 Conservative voters, by contrast, largely believe the Government is taking the right economic measures, at 72%.

A further 42% of respondents said the UK Government is doing a good job at ensuring the economy is in a position to bounce back after the virus has subsided, while 24% of respondents said the Government is doing a bad job in this regard.

The British public’s rating of the Government in this area has not changed substantially since June 2020, when 45% of respondents said the Government was doing a good job at ensuring the economy was in a position to bounce back following the pandemic.

Views on the future prospects of the UK economy are mixed: while many feel optimistic that the economy can recover quickly and believe the Government is doing a good job in doing the groundwork for such a recovery, there still exists a widespread sense that the worst of the pandemic’s economic effects are yet to come. On the bright side, a much-needed boost can be expected in the short-term as non-essential retail and outdoor hospitality venues are set to re-open on 12 April.

To find out more information about this research contact our research team. Redfield & Wilton Strategies is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

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